Final paper

Due dates

  • Topic proposal: 11:59pm Tuesday, May 17 (via Canvas)
  • Full final paper: 11:59pm Tuesday, May 31 (via Canvas)



Your final paper should be a coherent literature review of a specific topic that relates to the concepts covered this quarter. The paper should cover both current theories and empirical research relating to your topic. Thematically, your paper should build strong connections between your chosen topic and the broader themes of how context shapes psychological functions and processes.

You will submit your paper in two parts:

  1. Topic proposal: Draft a 2–3 paragraph proposal [max 1500 words] in which you identify (a) the general research question you are interested in, (b) the specific research question you are interested in, (c) which lectures and/or assigned readings your topic relates to, and (d) what specifically you would like to learn further about that topic. If you already are aware of empirical findings or theories that you would like to include in your paper, please mention and cite these as context for your proposal. Remember that your topic must be specific, directly related to something we learned about in lecture/assigned readings, and thematically linked to the concept of context’s influence on psychological functions and processes. If your topic is too broad, you will struggle to create a coherent literature review. I will give feedback on your proposal, including recommended adjustments to the scope and content of your proposed topic; this may require some back-and-forth correspondence. My approval of your topic proposal is required before the final paper can be submitted.

  2. Full final paper: This literature review (formatting instructions below) should be written for an intelligent non-specialist. Organize your thoughts coherently, illustrate concepts with concrete examples, cite all scientific claims, and aim for clarity and persuasiveness over style. Your submission should be free of typos. I will review an outline with you but will not read drafts. Your literature review must include at least one assigned reading from the course (to which your topic directly relates) and at least 3 (better 4–5) additional readings that were not assigned in the course. Follow the guidelines below on choosing readings for full credit.


Your paper should be submitted as a Microsoft Word document or as a PDF.

For all sections, please use:

  • 12-pt Times New Roman font
  • Double-spaced
  • 1-inch margins

There are three parts to the full final paper:

  1. Cover page
    • 1 page
    • Your name
    • Your ID number
    • The title of your paper
  2. Body of paper
    • 8–10 pages
  3. Expanded references
    • APA-formatted reference list of every paper cited, with the addition of…
    • The abstract for each referenced paper (correct any copy-paste errors)
    • Take as many pages as you need for this section

Choosing readings

Start with a “key” article—the assigned reading from the course to which your topic relates. Only include journal articles (i.e., do not include books or book chapters). Restrict your first-round search to papers that are cited in your key article (i.e., backwards search) or papers that cite your key article (i.e., forwards search). If you are still looking for papers for your review after this first round of looking, repeat the process again with the papers you found by searching forwards/backwards. In other words, all your papers should be interconnected by at least one direct citation from one paper to another, and all should lead back to at least one assigned paper from the course. Ensure that your chosen articles actually address your proposed topic, and do so with enough breadth and depth for you to describe multiple theories and empirical findings. Do not include more than 6 additional readings beyond the one already assigned from the course—that will be too much to cover in this short paper format!


Final grades will primarily reflect:

  1. Quality of the chosen set of readings (i.e., do they present a coherent sampling of a specific—and pre-approved—topic?);
  2. Quality of the literature review text (i.e., are the readings covered in sufficient depth and explained in a manner that draws out core concepts, common themes, and critical differences/conflicts?);
  3. Strength of the thematic connection between the topic, the literature review outcomes, and the course topic of context effects in psychology.


Clearly attribute your sources and do not represent others’ words as your own. The consequence of plagiarism is failing this course.